In the series “Job Profiles”, we talk to various members of the InterNations team about their position and the work that they do.
For this article, we’ve had a chat with Peter, an expat from Ireland who works in the Accounting Team at InterNations.
You have been with InterNations for quite some time. Can you tell me more about your career at our company?
I started working at InterNations in July 2013. My initial position was that of Financial Accountant, and I was supposed to set up an in-house accounting team that did not exist at that time.
When I started, Christa — now our Team Lead Human Resources — was in charge of some office management tasks, such as sending financial information to our tax consultant, who did our bookkeeping for us. It became my responsibility to start internalizing accounting at InterNations, set up various processes, introduce a paperless office, and so forth.
A few months into my new job, we installed a specialized software, which helped us do the daily bookings internally, to send out invoices, and to take care of the general accounting tasks throughout the month. Then, after InterNations was acquired by New Work SE in July 2017, we slowly but surely internalized more and more processes. It was also around this time that Münüre, my first team member, began to work here, and I became responsible for her in my role as Senior Accountant. In 2019, we switched to a new accounting software — one also used by New Work SE — and finally completed the internalization process. And in April this year, Münüre and I welcomed a new colleague, András, so I officially got the job title Team Lead Accounting.
And which tasks are you and your team in charge of?
Our day-to-day working life involves all the things that you can imagine when you think of accounting: overseeing small expenditures from the petty cash box; booking and sending out invoices; booking our bank statements; following up on payments; preparing cashflow statements to provide information on the company’s financial situation; credit control; preparing and analyzing our profit & loss and balance sheet statements, which list the company’s assets and liabilities; setting up fixed assets; doing accruals and depreciations, and so on. As I’ve just mentioned, everything related to accounting is now handled internally at InterNations, including our tax returns.
Since accounting is a very specialized field of work, could you maybe explain some of these tasks in detail? For example, accruals and depreciations?
In a nutshell, accruals refer to a way of controlling revenues and expenditures, so that they show up in the books for the month in which a service is provided or another service is utilized. There are two types of accruals, called passive und aktive Rechnungsabgrenzung in German. The first type applies when we provide a service to a client, for example, when a member purchases a six-month premium Albatross Membership. We issue an invoice in the same month, but the service is actually going to be used over the next six months. That’s why we would prefer the revenue we have just invoiced to be spread out over the same period. The second type of accrual is used for invoices from our creditors. Let’s assume we get an invoice for a software we’re currently using. This service will be provided to us over the course of twelve months, but we’d like to avoid having the entire expense on our books for November. The tax law allows us to spread out these costs over the coming year.
Depreciation kind of goes into the same direction. As a company, we have so-called fixed assets, which are defined by specific characteristics, such as a certain value. An electric kettle for the office kitchen would be too cheap to be considered a fixed asset, but a new laptop worth 1,200 EUR definitely counts. The value of this product — as well as the product itself — decreases over a certain timeframe allocated by the German tax authorities. The laptop would be booked into our fixed assets portfolio, but again, we’re spreading out the costs incurred. A laptop is depreciated over three years, so every month, I would do a depreciation of 1/36th of its value — about 33 EUR in my example. Basically, depreciation is both the decrease in the value of an asset and the process of deducting its cost over its useful life span.
Accruals and depreciation also play an important role for the Accounting Team at the end of each month.
So, what does the Accounting Team do at the end of the month?
By the second working day of each month, we need to send a month-end report for the previous month to our parent company. On Tuesday, 4 November, we submitted the monthly report for October 2020. Preparing this report means “tidying up” everything we’ve been working on in that month. This includes, for example, importing a huge file with all premium membership purchases into our accounting software, since we don’t make individual bookings for every single membership that is upgraded or renewed. But the process also involves all the steps that you don’t necessarily take care of during the month, such as depreciation of fixed assets, certain accruals, and checking and balancing out creditors and debtors on our trial balance.
Our annual end-of-year report is done for the entire New Work SE corporation, so their accounting department does most of the work, but there are lots of smaller tasks we need to tackle to prepare for this, too.
And how did you get into accounting? Did you always have this particular career in mind?
No, not really. Ironically, my mother is also an accountant, but I always said I would never become one myself. Originally, I considered studying law, but then opted for a business degree in international commerce, combined with an arts degree in German studies. While I was studying, I was more interested in marketing and advertising, and I was planning to enroll in a master’s course in international business in Vienna — where I’d also spent my Erasmus year abroad — and look for a job in advertising or marketing afterwards. But neither of these things ever happened.
The particular course I was interested in wouldn’t be introduced until one year later, and I didn’t want to wait for so long. So, I decided to do a master’s degree in European business management in Munich instead, which introduced me to the world of German tax law. Moreover, during my summer breaks, I always had student jobs related to either law or finance and accounting, so I had lots of work experience in the latter field, but very little in marketing and advertising. At this point, a friend who worked for a recruitment agency told me: “Even if you say that accounting isn’t your cup of tea, I do have an interesting job at a cool company, and I think you could be a good fit.” I decided to give accounting a try and see how it went — and here we are, nearly a dozen years later!
I received a lot of my accounting training on the job. At my previous company, I often worked very long hours, but I was also encouraged to learn a lot. So, I acquired quite a bit of in-depth knowledge and also learned how to work independently. After four years at my previous employer, I needed a change, though, and that’s how I found InterNations. I also received an offer from another company and had almost accepted it, but my heart wasn’t really in it. I just had the feeling that InterNations was the right place for me. This was the reason why I started here, and it’s also the reason why I’m still here, after more than seven years.
Why is InterNations the right place for you? And what do you like best about your job in particular and the company in general?
Thankfully, I’ve always worked for creative, interesting, international companies, whereas my job itself is very organized and sometimes a little dry. I think this combination fits my personality very well. On the one hand, I’m a very neat and orderly person, as well as a bit of a perfectionist. Covering this aspect in my working life comes easily and naturally to me. I also pay close attention to detail, which is very important in accounting, and I really enjoy working with numbers. Moreover, I like the sense of routine and security that comes with knowing what my tasks are for the day and how to go about them. Accounting is a very structured way of working.
On the other hand, I like the creativity at InterNations and, of course, the international flair. I don’t think I’d ever be the kind of person who goes for an accounting career in a big firm with a very corporate environment. What I personally love about InterNations is that I can switch between English and German every day. I work predominantly in German, but whenever I want to speak my native language, I just have to walk out of my office door. I also enjoy hearing different languages around me and meeting people from different cultures at work.
Here at InterNations, we also have a very non-hierarchical way of working. People are given the responsibility and independence they need to get the job done, and there’s a certain trust there that they will get it done, without anyone hovering over their shoulder and breathing down their neck. This is something I appreciate very much, and I try to bring the same attitude to my position as Team Lead Accounting. I definitely trust my team members and want to give them the same kind of responsibility — they are very good at what they do, so why should I have any reason to doubt this?
Once the COVID-19 pandemic no longer keeps us from traveling freely, which InterNations Community would be the first you’d like to visit?
I pretty much have a second home in Helsinki because my partner is from there. At the moment, we’re both in Munich, but in pre-COVID times, I would go to Helsinki several times a year. So, I guess it would be the first community I’d visit. I don’t think we have an InterNations Community in Athlone, my Irish hometown, but Dublin would be the nearest one. Helsinki and Athlone would be the two places I’d go to first since I have family in both Finland and Ireland.
Speaking of Ireland, I had planned to go to the Gaeltacht — one of the primarily Irish-speaking districts — to take an intensive course in Irish Gaelic for a couple of weeks this year. At school, I was among the lucky ones who became as fluent in Irish as they were in English, and I’d love to brush up on my slightly rusty Irish. This trip is something to look forward to when the pandemic is finally over.
Image credit: InterNations / iStockphoto / Shutterstock